Less than 24 hours after being ranked for the first time under Kellie Harper, the No. 23 Lady Vols defeated Stetson 73-46 in a historic night in Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I thought our team performed better than we performed last week,” Harper said following the game. “That growth was great to see. Our practices leading up to this game, I felt were better, were sharper, a little more motivated. It showed in our play.”
Jordan Horston got things going early and often for Tennessee (5-0). The freshman point guard led the Lady Vols to a 20-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, scoring 11 points in the opening frame. With six of Tennessee’s seven shots in the quarter coming from the 3-point line, Horston was 3-of-4 from distance.
Horston finished with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three. She added seven assists, five rebounds, and two steals in 25 minutes.
Tennessee continued to roll in the second quarter, pushing its lead from seven to 15 by the end of the first half. The Lady Vols led Stetson 39-24 at the break thanks to 14 first half points from Horston and 11 points from Rennia Davis. UT finished the first half on a 13-1 run.
The second half was similar to the opening half. Tennessee outscored the Hatters 34-22 over the final 20 minutes, closing out the game with a win in its 500th home game ever in Thompson-Boling.
“Our shootaround today was about as bad 3-point shooting as you could shoot,” Harper laughed. “We did not shoot well in our shootaround today, but they have gotten in the gym a lot.
“Our players can make shots. They felt good about getting the shot up, and they were taking open looks and knocking them down. I’m not shocked because our players consistently make shots in practice.”
UT’s defense made life tough on Stetson (2-3) throughout the game. Harper’s bunch held Stetson to 39 percent shooting from the field and 13 percent from the 3-point line. The Hatters were just 2-for-15 from three. On the boards, Tennessee won the rebounding battle 48-32.
For Stetson, Day’Neshia Banks led the Hatters with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Banks was the high school teammate of Davis at Ribault High School in Jacksonville, Florida. The pair led Ribault to three high school state championships and one national championship.
“It was fun,” Davis said about playing against her former teammate. “I love to do that, to compete with people that you grew up with and just see the progress that they’ve made.”
Both Banks and Davis led their respective teams in shooting. While Banks scored the highest total of any player in the game, Davis finished with a team-high 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting for UT. Davis also had five rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. She even had a chance to dunk the basketball at one point in the game.
“I honestly could have dunked that one, but I was like, ‘You know what, the game is kind of close right now, so, just let me try to get these easy two points because I could have possibly missed the dunk,'” Davis said. “I got y’all later this season, though.”
Horston and Davis led Tennessee in scoring, but it was Jazmine Massengill that consistently set up her teammates for success. The sophomore guard scored 12 points, but more importantly, grabbed six rebounds, assisted on five buckets, and picked up two steals.
“Jazmine’s (Massengill) poise is terrific for our basketball team,” Harper said. “Right now, we have two point guards, Jazmine and Jordan (Horston). I think they bring very different things, and I think that is a good thing. They complement each other well.
“Jordan is gonna look to make plays, she’s gonna be flashy. And I think Jazmine is a little bit more reserved, being a little bit more cautious. I think it’s a nice balance. Jazmine has done a really good job of communicating with me during games.”
The Lady Vols will be back in action a week from Tuesday night when they take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET.